Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Want a stress-free Thanksgiving? Start early

Thanksgiving is a hard concept for the cook in the family: What in the heck is there to be thankful for? You cook and cook and cook, and present a beautiful table, yet in an hour or two, everyone's stuffed and in front of the TV and there are mounds of dishes to be done. Well, I can't help you with the cleanup, but you can take a load off the front end of the production by preparing many of the traditional dishes ahead of time, so that all you really need to prepare on Thursday is the turkey. Here's your timeline: Start cooking Sunday; buy bird Wednesday. Sunday: Make the apple cake and/or the pumpkin ice cream pie and freeze (the sauces can be refrigerated). Monday: Make the Gulliver's Corn. Refrigerate. Tuesday: Make the Curried Cream of Pumpkin Soup and the Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes. Blanch the green beans and make the sauce for that dish. Refrigerate. Wednesday: Pick up a fresh turkey, allowing 3/4 to 1 pound per person. Make stock from the neck and giblets. Make stuffing and gravy; refrigerate. Wash turkey in cold water and dry well; cover and refrigerate. Set the table and cover with a sheet. Take the cake out of the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge. Thursday: Determine when you would like to eat. Calculate the cooking time, stuff the turkey, place it on a rack in a large roasting pan and bake as directed. If you don't stuff the turkey, put the dressing into a loaf pan and cook it with the turkey for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 45 minutes while you heat the soup, the gravy and vegetable sauce on the stove, and bake the potatoes and corn in the 350-degree oven. Take out the green beans from the fridge. After 25-30 minutes, take out the potatoes and corn and crank up the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, serve the soup and urge everyone to start without you. Carve the turkey. Remove the stuffing to a serving dish, or slice it from the loaf pans. Toss the green beans with the sauce. Turn down the oven to 350 degrees. Serve and enjoy! For dessert, put the apple cake into the oven 10 minutes before you're ready to serve. Heat up the sauce. Serve up the cake and top with sauce. Or soften the ice-cream pie a bit by putting it in the refrigerator before sitting down to eat, then serve it with its sauce after the meal. Actually, the cake can be made up to a month in advance, and it's good for any fall event. I'll reprint the recipe tomorrow. The rest I'll post the week before Thanksgiving so you'll have time to shop.

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